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By Alaena Fletcher About a dozen students participated in a queer and women-focused self-defense workshop on Friday, May 18, taught by a representative from Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu, a martial-arts school based in Seattle. The class was organized by the Queer Resource Center with the intention to help everyone of all identities and skills learn basic self-defense techniques, according to their Facebook post. Nichole Vargas, employee of the QRC, said she was searching for an LGBT-friendly organization to come in and teach the workshop. Unfortunately, there are no programs based in Bellingham, but after extending the search to Seattle, she found Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu, Vargas said. “We know a lot of queer people, on campus especially, feel unsafe sometimes,” Vargas said. “I picked Seven Star because their page is very LGBT-friendly and it’s women-run and owned.” She said she thought that was especially cool that they would be more accepting and knowledgeable about LGBT issues.

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Michelle McVadon, of the Seven Star Women's Kung Fu in Seattle, walks students through a series of strikes on pads in the Wade King Recreation Center on Friday, May 18, 2018. // Photo by Alaena Fletcher
  After making a post on Facebook, Vargas received many shares and responses. She said this showed an interest and need for similar workshops. Michelle McVadon, the co-chief instructor at Seven Star, has been teaching self-defense for 29 years. She began the workshop with how essential using your voice is in self-defense and the importance of finding confidence. During the workshop, students ran through drills and scenarios, learning common mistakes people make when being attacked and how to fight back with their body and voice.s In the second half of the workshop, McVadon asked what specific situations or places students feel most unsafe. After receiving several answers, McVadon went through each scenario, showing those gathered the best way to respond. At the end of the workshop, McVadon stressed the importance of learning self-defense, especially on a college campus. She suggested the idea of offering self-defense programs with orientation for incoming freshmen, as some colleges have implemented. Junior Elizabeth Paulson took the class to supplement her kickboxing class and learn more self-defense techniques. Paulson said she would like to see similar workshops offered in the future. “I feel like if people empowered themselves and gained a lot of confidence, it would really help the atmosphere at this school,” Paulson said.


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